FFRF Sues the IRS for Not Going After Politically-Active Churches

We’ve known for a while now that when churches make political statements from the pulpit — like on “Pulpit Freedom Sunday” — the IRS hasn’t been pursuing them for violations of their tax-exempt status as they should be.

The reason? Because no one at the IRS is in charge of the issue.

Now, the Freedom From Religion Foundation is suing the IRS (PDF) for not doing their job. (How’s that for payback?)

The IRS may initiate a tax inquiry of a church or religious organization if a highranking IRS official documents in writing the acts and circumstances, including potential violations of the electioneering prohibition, that lead the official to reasonably believe that the Church may have violated the requirements for tax exemption under §501(c)(3).

In fact, however, the Internal Revenue Service, under the direction of the Defendant Shulman, has followed and continues to follow a policy of non-enforcement of the electioneering restrictions of §501(c)(3) against churches and other religious organizations.

As a result, in recent years, churches and religious organizations have been blatantly and deliberately flaunting the electioneering restrictions of §501(c)(3), including during the presidential election year of 2012.

The most jaw-dropping part of FFRF’s lawsuit has to be this:

The preferential tax-exemption that churches and other religious organizations obtain, despite noncompliance with electioneering restrictions, amounts to more than $100,000,000,000 annually in tax-free contributions made to churches and religious organizations in the United States.

If people are giving that much money, tax-free, to churches, we sure as hell better make sure these churches are following the law.

We can’t trust Christians to do the right thing — they need to look to a holy book to get their morals, after all — so the government needs to police them.

Pastors are allowed to endorse any politician they want privately. When they’re in the pulpit, though, they have to give up their church’s tax-exempt status if they want to do the same thing.

So far, churches have been flaunting the fact that they can get away with endorsing candidates without being punished for it, evening sending videos of their politician-endorsing sermons to the IRS.

It’s about time they pay for their crimes.

By the way, if you support what FFRF is doing, then send them a donation. Better yet, become a member like me.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.